While L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa awaits his promised study on whether to end cruelty to elephants at the L.A. Zoo, the Studio City Chamber of Commerce sponsored a startling display of animal abuse and child endangerment at its low-wattage Christmas Parade last night.
Hundreds were waiting in the biting cold for the delayed parade on Ventura Boulevard, when a big, sad, betusked elephant was trotted up the boulevard by two “handlers,” and stopped in front of the Mexicali Restaurant to give perilous rides to a hapless few.
It could have been a scene out of King Kong as mama handler screamed, spit and snarled frantically at frightened children and confused parents, ordering them to move back and onto the sidewalk, lest the unhappy beast go on a rampage!
Unhappy? The elephant’s head swayed and its body rocked to and fro as the male keeper yanked its tusk, slapped its mighty head and shouted warnings to the beast to calm down. Of course, he added a few pokes and pulls with the barbaric "ankus," the sharpened hook used for centuries to keep the behemoths under control.
(We haven’t seen any abuse so blatant since witnessing Bobby Berosini’s orangutan antics backstage at the 1987 Jerry Lewis Telethon in Vegas (see Tabloid Baby, pg 74).
Mommy and daddy hid the sharp end of their sticks so as not to alarm the already-scared kids.
But while Betty White led a demonstration to keep the elephants in their cramped enclosure at the antiquated L.A. Zoo a few miles away, the true face of elephants in captivity was paraded out in the middle of the boulevard.
And somebody human could have gotten hurt, too.
The only other “celebrities” in the parade were Richard Karn from Family Feud, some drippy soap opera actresses, and too many realtors.
The real starpower was on the sidelines. Among the crowd at Mexicali were tabloid television legend Doug Bruckner and this old gray-haired guy who plays a lot of cops and priests on TV (I think he guested on NYPD Blue). Parade spectators included Terminator’s Robert Patrick dressed up like a Fifties gas station attendant, complete with fat wallet chain, Linda Gray and Jimmy Kimmel, who haunted the block near Art’s Deli in a white OJ watchcap. (Would Johnny wander alone aimlessly up and down Ventura on a Saturday night? At least Jay would be riding a Stanley Steamer and wearing a train engineer’s hat.)
Animal activist Chris DeRose runs Last Chance for Animals. He’s the point man in the elephant cause. Visit the LCA site and learn.
The Studio City Chamber of Commerce hired the elephant and runs next year’s parade, too. 818-655-5916.